September 4, 2011
Foundations of Psychology
It is just another normal day for you. You were taking a leisurely stroll through the park before you decided to rest for a minute on a bench. And that is when you notice the man sitting next to you, singing quietly to himself. He seemed normal at first glance, but you begin to notice that he looks disheveled. Hair a little frazzled, and clothing a bit wrinkled. At first it seems no big deal. Then you realize he is not singing, but conversing with himself. And no, he is not wearing a Bluetooth device! At this moment, you realize this man may have a mental disorder of some kind. If you do not have an understanding of mental disorders, you may be quick to judge him. Although you should not look down on someone who has a mental disorder, you should not try to deal with them if you are not a trained psychologist and have a grounded understanding of psychology. What is psychology? How do people study psychology? The biology and theories of psychology are equally important. Biology is the cause, and the theories are the effects. To understand someone, we must pay attention to not only the psychological experiences of an individual, but also their biology. The Biological foundation of Psychology involves the electrical and chemical processes in the nervous system that cause us to feel, have fears, and develop thoughts. There are many biological factors that can influence psychological functioning. From the neuron to the different parts of the nervous system, each can impact mental processes and behavior. Genetics and evolution can also influence psychological functioning. Genetics and evolution interact in ways that psychologists are still trying to understand. Psychologists have studied the influence of our genetic designs, or genotypes, on psychological qualities, phenotypes. Research has shown that the difference of individuals of psychological characteristics reflect genetic influence. Our heritability, the extent to which differences in a trait can be attributed to our genetic makeup, is important in trying to understand human behavior. Evolution involves the changes of genes over generations. Psychologists have examined that behaviors are adaptive to human survival and reproduction. Neuroscientists believe the routes for psychological events, such as emotions or thoughts, are distributed throughout the brain, with each part contributing to the total experience. The epicenter of our psychological experiences is the nervous system. Neurons are the basic unit of the nervous system. These nerve cells are specialized for electrical and chemical communication. Their purpose is helping to coordinate all the functions of the body. The human nervous system is made up of billions of neurons. Each neuron has a distinctive structure that heightens its communication purpose. Neurons have branchlike extensions, called dendrites, which receive responses from other neurons. The cell body contains a nucleus that has the genetic material of the cell. The nucleus determines how each neuron will operate the input from other dendrites. If a neuron receives enough stimulation through its dendrites and cell body, it passes the input to the dendrites of other neurons through its axon. The axon is a long extension from the cell body whose dominant function is to transmit information to other neurons. At the end of the axon is the terminal button, which sends signals from the neuron to adjacent cells. These signals are triggered by the electrical impulse that has traveled down the axon and been received by the dendrites or cell bodies of other neurons. Connections between neurons occur at synapses. Instead of touching at a synapse, a space exists between the two neurons, called the synaptic cleft. The synapse is the most important functional unit of the nervous system. Neurons communicate at the synapse...